“Good time” in Wisconsin

Defendants in criminal cases often don’t understand good time.  Does it apply to prison?  Is it only in jail?  How does the jail calculate it?  In this blog post, one of our top criminal defense attorneys answers these questions.

If you face any kind of criminal charge in Wisconsin, we believe that it’s best you approach your case with the assistance of a criminal defense attorney.  Certainly we believe that the defense attorneys at Van Severen Law Office are among the best in the state.  Our defense lawyers answer phones 24/7 and want to help you.

Finally, contact us with any questions or to speak with a lawyer at (414) 270-0202.

Good time only applies to county jail sentences

Section 302.43 of the Wisconsin Statutes defines good time in Wisconsin.  “Every inmate of a county jail is eligible to earn good time in the amount of one-fourth of his or her term for good behavior if sentenced to at least 4 days, but fractions of a day shall be ignored…” Wis. Stat. sec. 302.43.

As an example, on a 12 day sentence, the defendant will only sit for 9 days in custody.  He earned 3 days, or 25% of the 12 day sentence.  On a 10 days sentence, the defendant earns 2.5 days, but since fractions are ignored, the defendant still sits in jail for the full 8 days.  A defendant who has served time awaiting sentencing is given credit for the time already spent in custody.  Good time is added to that figure.

free consultation client testimonials

How do defendants lose this credit?

Defendants lose good time when they aren’t good.  The law says:

An inmate who violates any law or any regulation of the jail, or neglects or refuses to perform any duty lawfully required of him or her, may be deprived by the sheriff of good time under this section, except that the sheriff shall not deprive the inmate of more than 2 days good time for any one offense without the approval of the court…” Wis. Stat. sec. 302.43.

There are certainly other ways defendants lose good time.  For example, when a defendant files legal actions in a malicious manner, with an intent to harass, they lose good time.  Defendants also lose good time when they knowingly provide false information in those legal actions.

What about “conditional jail” or jail as a condition of probation?

Sometimes probation includes conditional jail.  For example, the judge may sentence and individual to 2 years probation, but one of the conditions of that probation is 30 days jail.  What does this mean?  The defendant sits in jail for the first 30 days of that 2 year probation term.  Defendants do not earn good time on conditional jail sentences.  Therefore, a sentence including 30 days conditional jail will include 30 days conditional jail.

Defendants often have a hard time grasping this concept, but there is some good news.  In State v. Schell, 2003 WI App 78, 261 Wis. 2d 841, 661 N.W.2d 503 the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin clarified that a circuit court may not prohibit the sheriff from ordering home monitoring for a probationer ordered to serve jail time as a condition of probation.  The court reasoned that by precluding the sheriff from releasing the probationer on home monitoring, the trial court substantially interfered with the sheriff’s power in violation of the separation of powers doctrine.  This case doesn’t reduce the amount of time you have to sit.  But it allows the jail to send you home to do your sentence.

A jail cell
Good time credit in Wisconsin can be confusing. Contact our criminal defense lawyers at (414) 270-0202.

Questions about a potential jail sentence?

Our criminal defense attorneys certainly understand the stress you’re experiencing.  It’s possibly you’ve never been to jail before, and now you have many questions.  Unfortunately, not all attorneys are capable of answering your questions regarding your jail sentence.

Secondly, if you’re seeking representation for a criminal case in Wisconsin, contact us immediately.  Our defense attorneys certainly work around the clock defending individuals with charges just like yours.  Whether you’re facing a drunk driving charge, a drug charge, a domestic violence charge, or any other kind of criminal charge, we can help.  Finally, contact Van Severen Law Office today at (414) 270-0202.

(A criminal defense attorney updated this blog post on July 15, 2020.)

icon-angle icon-bars icon-times